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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Will Apple Survive The Test Of Adversity?
May 31st, 2000

This spring and summer, we will see what Apple is really made of. After a couple of almost flawless years of computer business, a few aspects of Apple's situation are darker than before.

The G4, which is still shipping no faster than 500 MHz, is much less than what Apple would like to be shipping at the moment. Its domination in the speed department is fading away as new 1GHz PCs are performing very well. In fact, using the G4's Velocity Engine is the only way to keep up with an Athlon if we believe MacAddict (June edition).

Even though we would expect Motorola and IBM to get their act together with Apple to push things further, we are still waiting for something faster than last year's offering and we have nothing more than rumors to look at.

Add to this the fact that Apple did not update any of its hardware at the last WWDC. Despite rumors to the contrary that suggest Apple does not release new products at this event, this is not the case. For instance, at last year's WWDC Apple released Mac OS 8.6, a PowerBook and then pre-announced Mac OS 9... ahem.

When you track down Apple's moves since Jobs got back, you see big news every three months. This was a great way for Apple to keep everybody on their toes and keep a steady release pace. It actually contributed to the platform's growth and Apple's eventual stock rise.

Now, even though it will be beneficial, Mac OS X is behind schedule, reminding us that a modern operating system takes time for Apple to develop. It also reminds us that Copland failed and how Mac users want to stay away from similar failure at all costs.

All these circumstances together were enough for Wall Street to send Apple stock downwards. Investors like concrete results in time or in advance, not just pretty promises and smiles.

While nobody is ready to question Steve Jobs' leadership, we are about to see how Apple will react in adversity.

What will they do after losing their edge in pure speed? Will their partners find a way to solve the G4 processor manufacturing problem? Or is it happening already? What about Mac OS X? Will Apple respect its new schedule in 2001? We were used to big releases every three months, what will they do about that now that we did not receive our candy at the WWDC?

Asking such questions around Cupertino would probably earn me some glares from Apple employees and bigwigs. Nevertheless, I think that these interrogations are valid and useful.

If Apple provides a strong answer to each of them before the end of the year, the most skeptical users and investors could conclude that Apple fought well in adversity.

Say what you want about PC makers, but they are doing a great job at catching up with Apple. Maybe they do not innovate as much, but they can surprise us. Intel and AMD accelerated the pace in processor speeds and PC manufacturers had quick reponses to the G4 in terms of speed.

Can Apple deal with that?

This may seem like nothing to you while you read my words, but in the past, troubled waters were the best way to take Apple to very low levels. We called it Apple's death spiral. Every time something bad happened, consumer confidence toward Apple faded a bit more, resulting in lower sales, lower stock and more bad news to announce, etc.

I am confident that Apple can avoid the cycle this time. With stronger leadership than a few years ago and more technological alliances in the industry, Apple has more tools to work its way out of difficult circumstances. I hope that the current situation will show us Apple's strenght of character.It will be something to watch...

Many Mac users who plan on going to MACWORLD Expo in New York this year will shout "MACWORLD NY or bust!". Why do I have the impression that this is exactly what Apple could say this time?

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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